Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bellevue supports county’s road levy

City would receive some $100,000 over 2 years

Express Staff Writer

    Bellevue leaders expressed enthusiasm Monday for passage of a countywide, two-year property-tax levy that would raise $100,000 that could be used to repair Bellevue streets.
    County Commissioner Larry Schoen told the Bellevue City Council Monday that the county plans to place the levy on the May ballot in order to raise money for road and bridge maintenance.
    “That $100,000 would be huge for Bellevue,” said Planning Director Craig Eckles.    
    The proposed 0.1 percent levy would raise about $5.25 million annually, of which about $1.73 million would go to the county’s five cities for their own street projects.
    State law requires that 50 percent of any taxes raised in a city go back to that city, said Schoen.
    Tentative figures for the proposed levy indicate that Bellevue residents would be assessed $65 for every $100,000 in property valuation. That would amount to a property tax increase of $5.40 per month, for two years.
    Eckles presented a slideshow to the City Council demonstrating the city’s need for funding for street maintenance. He said the city spends about $72,000 each year on street repair, most of which is spent on labor and equipment.
“About $20,000 goes toward chip-sealing. Then the money is gone,” Eckles said.
Eckles said $400,000 is needed to rebuild the shoulders of the streets running east and west, where water has seeped under asphalt, causing it to deteriorate. The city could then move forward with a rebuild of north-south streets.
    Eckles said the city has plans to grade street edges downward at a steeper angle and replace shoulders with gravel so they will drain water away from the new asphalt. He said Sunrise subdivision has good examples of gravel street shoulders that drain well.
    Eckles said many driveways that have been installed on city rights of way would have to be removed to complete the work. He said residents could replace their driveways at their own expense.
     Schoen said the county would provide “story maps” to educate the public about specific improvements the proposed levy would have on streets in Bellevue and elsewhere in Blaine County. He said they would include before and after illustrations.
    “We have a huge backdrop of projects, so we won’t get everything done with a two-year levy,” Schoen said. “We will have to chip away at it.”
    Schoen said that if the levy is successful and the county work is approved of, the county could conceivably ask for another two-year levy, or even a permanent levy.
    “But we are not taking that approach right now,” Schoen said.
    Schoen said only Sun Valley has expressed opposition to the levy.
    “Even though Sun Valley is against it, they will get the funds if it passes,” Schoen said.

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